Overview of Male Nurse Stereotypes, and Why They are Wrong

While men hold a lower percentage of jobs in nursing than women, male nurses are much more common today than in decades past.

Even though the percentage of male nurses is increasing in recent years, male nurses in today’s workforce still have to face stereotypes working in a female-dominated industry.

Nursing is a challenging, yet well-trusted career that carries a lot of prestige and respect. While nursing can be stressful at times, men that are going into a field in which they are in the minority may face additional obstacles.

Being aware of these viewpoints and challenges is helpful in knowing what people are up against. In this article, we’ll look at the most common male nurse stereotypes and why they are wrong.

3 Common Male Nurse Stereotypes

Nurses are Women

According to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics, men make up about 12% of the nursing workforce. While that number is obviously lower than women in the industry, it shows that there are men in the nursing industry. So, therefore, this stereotype is false. Not all nurses are women.

The percentage of men going into the nursing field is actually increasing over the years. In the 1970s, the statistics were much lower, with men making up only roughly 3% of nurses during that time.

During the 1850s, when Florence Nightingale introduced the world to modern nursing, those schools excluded men.

Those schools gave women opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise had. Times have changed tremendously from then though, and we will continue to see the change over the decades.

Something that was once an opportunity for women has expanded. We’re evolving from “men’s jobs” and “women’s jobs” to jobs and opportunities for everyone.

It doesn’t happen overnight, but when you look at what it was like in the all-women nursing schools back in the 1850s, to current times – a night and day difference. Women have opportunities to work in male-dominated positions, just like men have opportunities to work in female-dominated positions like nursing.

Male Nurses are Failed Doctors

This is a common stereotype for nurses in general. People will ask those in nursing school why they didn’t go to medical school, or if they are going to medical school later in life.

New nurses hear questions or comments like that all the time. “Was medical school too hard to get into?” or “You just settled on nursing?” are disheartening for everyone in the nursing field to hear.

While those questions and comments are common for all nurses, it’s even more common for men that go into the nursing field.

Just as it’s more common to see women as nurses, it’s more common to see men as doctors. Therefore, if someone sees a male nurse, they just assume they couldn’t hack it as a doctor.

They either couldn’t get into medical school, failed while in medical school, or it was just too hard. These are all wrong and should never be assumed. While medical school and nursing school may seem comparable, they are vastly different in their practice and theory.

Men Lack the Empathy to be a Nurse

Looking at this stereotype, we can see it rooted in social bias in general. We hear people saying things like “be a man!”, “boys will be boys”, “man up!”, or “boys don’t cry”.

All of these phrases, among many similar phrases, are dangerous to our society as a whole. And they become more prominent and problematic for men working in a woman-dominated industry.

Patients and family members may see a male nurse as being less empathetic based on these societal stereotypes.

Fortunately, once a patient or family member sees their male nurse as being compassionate and caring, they will warm up and trust them over time. But, it’s just one more obstacle that a male nurse has to face, that their female co-workers may not.

Are Male Nurses Treated Differently?

Yes and No. How can this be both? Let’s break it down.


Yes, they are treated differently when patients, family members, or staff don’t know they are a nurse. Since they are male people might:

  • Just assumed they are the doctor
  • Ask them physician-related questions
  • Ask them to help with moving a heavy patient

They’re treated differently based on the assumption that they are something different.


No, they aren’t treated differently once the patients, family members, or staff know they are a nurse. Of course, there are certain people that will treat different people differently.

But there are so many variables that can go into play there, like how you treat others and whatnot. Here, we’re just talking in general terms of once it’s known that this male is a nurse, then they are treated like a nurse.

Are Male Nurses in High Demand?

Yes, no doubt about this one. The amount of males in the nursing workplace has tripled since the 1970s. However, there is still a demand for more males in nursing because men are still in the minority among nurses.

Since there are fewer males in nursing, it can be easier for them to get accepted into nursing school and eventually a nursing position.

This can be appealing for those that are looking for job security. The nursing shortage makes male nurses in high demand. Women can’t fill all the spots for nursing careers that are needed right now.


As we can see, these stereotypes that male nurses have to face are prevalent and unfair. Men are needed in the nursing field. These stereotypes may make it unappealing for men to go into the line of work in which they are discriminated against. Therefore, it’s imperative we realize these stereotypes are wrong and reverse them.

The best and most effective way of doing this is to educate. Educate our youth, but also our older generations. The older generations have different views on men and women, and their roles in society. Once people are educated, they will come to realize we can all benefit from more nurses in the workplace, including men.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2019

Written by Joanne Potter

Joanne, BSN and RN, is a writer that specializes in health and wellness. She has fifteen years of experience as a Registered Nurse in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). Her years working at the bedside and extensive neonatal knowledge enable her to write with a deep understanding of what patients and families want from their communities. Visit her LinkedIn page.

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